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Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to shell out 10,000 rubles, or roughly $165, to all families with school age children in occupied areas in Ukraine in an attempt to encourage school attendance amid the ongoing war.
In a Wednesday decree Putin said Russian-backed authorities illegally occupying areas in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions would coordinate the payments.
Russia acknowledged the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as “independent” from Ukraine in February, but Putin said three other Ukrainian regions would also be included in the decree.
For months Russian forces have occupied portions of the Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Kherson regions, which range from southern Ukraine to the north, but areas in all three regions remain highly contested.
Moscow has been threatening to hold referendums to annex all three regions in a move that echoes steps taken in 2014 after Russian illegally invaded Crimea.
But ahead of any referendums, Putin has directed the “military and civil administrations of the Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Kherson regions” to also provide funding to parents of school-age children to encourage school attendance.
The parents or legal guardians of children who are ages 6 to 18 will allegedly receive “lump sum” payments “if these children start school in these territories [no] later than Sept. 15, 2022,” a statement posted to the Kremlin website said.
Russian-installed officials in occupied areas of Ukraine have said they plan to hold the referendums to “vote” on becoming a part of Russia in September or early fall.
Kyiv and the international community have condemned Russia’s threat of referendum and have pointed to what many have claimed was a falsified vote in 2014, when results allegedly showed that some 97 percent of voters supported Crimea joining Russia.
Reporting later showed that only 30 percent of Crimeans actually voted in the process and of the voters only 15 percent supported Crimea’s annexation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier this month that if Russia holds any referendums on annexing portions of Ukraine that any talks between Moscow, Kyiv and its international partners would immediately stop.
“If the occupiers proceed along the path of pseudo-referendums, they will close for themselves any chance of talks with Ukraine and the free world, which the Russian side will clearly need at some point,” Zelenskyy warned.